.- The Diocese of Davenport, one of five U.S. dioceses to file for bankruptcy under the weight of sexual abuse cases, reached a $37 million agreement with the victims and their attorneys at 1 a.m. on Thursday, November 29.
Under the settlement, persons abused, or their relatives can request a letter of apology from the bishop of Davenport, Martin J. Amos.
According to the Associated Press, the negotiation of the agreement took place over four days in Chicago and will address the claims of 156 victims of abuse who have come forward. The pact also makes provision for any additional abuse claims by setting aside a portion of the money.
Reaching the settlement makes the Iowa diocese the last of the five dioceses around the country to complete this necessary component of filing for bankruptcy.
In a statement, Bishop Amos, said that the agreement offers "the best opportunity for healing" for victims of clergy abuse.
He also addressed the victims of abuse saying, “I apologize for the pain caused by the actions of some priests in the past 50 years. The priests who abused children betrayed the people who trusted them and they betrayed the Church. This has been a sad and difficult time for all of us as we attempt to offer healing to all victims of abuse. We are committed to ensuring that the Diocesan safe environment program will prevent this type of abuse from happening again.”
While the deal has yet to be approved by Judge Lee M. Jackwig, Bishop Amos said he hoped that it would allay uncertainty of the church's financial status and allow the diocese to continue its mission.
Lawyers for victims in the case said they were satisfied with the amount of the settlement. Patrick Noaker said the agreement may offer closure, of sorts, though he cautioned that many larger issues still must be addressed, mainly that the settlement doesn't ensure that future perpetrators won't have access to children. Mr. Noaker did not comment on the diocesan safe environment program mentioned by Bishop Amos.
Pending judicial approval, diocesan officials expect payments to begin by July 2008. To fund the settlement, the diocese is selling its headquarters and has already sold all other property owned by the diocese, including the bishop’s residence and a farm in Davenport. The balance of the money will come from diocesan investments and insurance companies.
Other measures to help sex abuse victims being offered by the diocese are: mental health counseling to any known or future abuse survivors, publication of the names of known abusers, and a personal letter of apology to any victim who wants one from Bishop Amos.
The Davenport diocese serves nearly 105,000 parishioners in 22 counties in southeastern Iowa.
The AP also reports that on Monday, “the Los Angeles Archdiocese wired $500 million to plaintiffs as part of the $660 million it has agreed to settle cases with more than 500 alleged victims of clergy abuse, and a former Catholic priest, Michael Baker, pleaded guilty in Los Angeles to sexually abusing two boys.” Baker was removed from ministry in 2000.